I walked the Shikoku Pilgrimage Trail in March/April 2018 and October/November 2019. The daily maximum temperatures were between 59 °F and 68 °F (15 °C and 20 °C). My equipment was adapted to these mild temperatures. During the walk there were several days of continuous rain.
I spent the nights in guesthouses, temple accommodation and henro houses. In larger cities, I occasionally stayed in a business hotel. I didn’t spend the night outdoors and therefore didn’t take any equipment with me, such as tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, etc.
For your own needs, you should adapt the recommendations accordingly.
I walked the Shikoku Pilgrimage Trail in March/April 2018 and October/November 2019. The daytime temperatures were around 68°F (20° C) during each of these periods. My equipment was adapted to these mild temperatures.
I spent the night in guesthouses, temple accommodations and henro houses. In larger cities also sometimes in a business hotel. I didn’t spend the night outdoors and therefore didn’t take any equipment with me, like tent, sleeping bag etc.
For your own needs you should adjust the recommendations accordingly.
Shoes and socks
One of the most important pieces of equipment for your pilgrimage, which will be 85 % on asphalt and 15 % on nature trails in Shikoku’s mountains and hills. Your shoes should be suitable for both surfaces.
Even in the warm months, it can be slippery when it rains. Choose shoes with a pronounced profile.
It is recommended to choose shoes larger (1/2 to 1 size) than normal. Feet will swell from the long distances, high temperatures and hard asphalt during the hike.
I cannot recommend a specific shoe for the hike. The requirements of the hikers are too different for that. But for most, heavy hiking shoes are unlikely to be suitable due to their heavy weight and cushioning that is too weak for the long asphalt stretches. Ankle-high shoes, with good cushioning, low weight and a profiled sole are the better choice for most. Helpful can be special cushioning shoe insoles.
A Goretex equipment of the shoes is recommended. Such shoes are waterproof and windproof, and at the same time water vapor permeable and breathable.
Should absorb moisture well, dry quickly, cool or warm, depending on the season and your own requirements.
To prevent blisters, double layer socks can be a good choice. With these socks, the two layers of the sock rub against each other and not the sock against your skin. A similar effect can be achieved by putting two socks on top of each other.
I had no problems with blisters on my second hike of 2019. The combination of a highly cushioned running shoe and double layer socks (Wrightsock Coolmesh II) was ideal for me.
Decisive for my choice were a very good back ventilation and a comfortable hip belt. Positive also the integrated backpack cover for rainy days.
Like the shoes, the backpack should also meet your individual requirements in terms of features, comfort and size and be lightweight.
Test before you leave for Shikoku, whether your backpack fits for you.
With the Deuter backpack I was satisfied in every respect. My companion also for the next pilgrimage.
Clothing, sun protection, rain protection
Washing machine and dryer are available in many accommodations for a small fee. In ryokan, shukubō and hotels, pyjamas (yukata) are provided for the night. Two sets of hiking clothes, three sets of underwear and three pairs of socks are sufficient.
Clothing should be comfortable, durable and functional, quick drying. Hiking pants and shirts are well suited. Cotton clothing gets damp quickly when hiking, retains moisture for a long time, and dries slowly.
Headgear – recommended. A multifunctional scarf, which can also be used as headgear, weighs the least. Those who hike with pilgrim hat “sugegasa” do not need a sun hat.
Sunscreen – a small pack is enough. On Shikoku you can buy more without any problems.
Rain pants and rain jacket – effective, but not cheap. Your decision should depend on the time of year and the likely climatic conditions. If you’re heading out in late fall/early winter, you should be better protected against rain than in April or May because of cooler temperatures.
Rain poncho / rain cape – available in a variety of configurations. With extension for backpacks; storm protection against sliding up, etc. Very good rain protection, not breathable, “sauna effect” at high temperatures.
umbrella – sufficient for light rain.
On my 2018 pilgrimage I had a rain poncho with me and made good experiences with it. In 2019, I had only a rain jacket with me to save even more weight and pack volume. I also got along well with it.
I did not take an umbrella with me. As an alternative for light rain, the pilgrim hat “sugegasa” or a sun hat can be sufficient.
The decision, which technical items are useful for the hike, varies from person to person. Here are suggestions to help you make your decision. In addition to the device, plan for the necessary additional equipment.
Smartphone – replaces several other devices, items. Flashlight function makes additional headlamp superfluous. Possible alternative to camera, notebook, dictionary, etc.
Tablet – replaces several other devices, items. Possible alternative to camera, printed guidebook, pilgrim’s guide, etc.
Laptop – may be useful in exceptional cases.
Camera – difficult for photo enthusiasts to do without. Depending on the model, high weight. Much additional equipment required; battery, charger, spare battery, memory cards.
Headlamp, alternatively also flashlight – useful for routes through tunnels, sometimes up to 2 km long and poorly lit. And for those who start in the morning before sunrise.
On my pilgrimage in March/April 2018 I had smartphone, tablet, compact camera and headlamp with me.
I did not use the headlamp. In some tunnels I went through, a lamp was useful / necessary. For that, the flashlight function of my smartphone was enough. In 2019, I was on the road without a headlamp.
I like to take pictures and would therefore pack my compact camera and the necessary additional equipment again.
Medication and drugstore items – according to your own needs. It is recommended to bring plasters and blister plasters.
Knife and small scissors – I used the knife mostly for peeling and cutting fruit. The scissors were very useful for cutting band-aids.
Lighter – for lighting candles and incense sticks at the temples.
Less is better.
Everything you take with you on the pilgrimage you will carry in your backpack or on your body for six or more weeks.
While preparing for my pilgrimage I came across different recommendations on the internet and in print media. “The fully packed backpack should be no more than 10 to 15% of your body weight”, or “no more than 10 kg for men and 7 kg for women”, etc.
My backpack and contents together weighed eight kg on my hike. Before starting the hike, I often walked to strengthen the leg muscles, usually without a backpack or with much less weight in the backpack. During the pilgrimage, the extra eight kg on my back was easily manageable.
Many things can be bought on Shikoku in pharmacies, drugstores, supermarkets, if a need arises.